Obesity can affect most areas of the body. It can also increase a person’s risk of serious health conditions. These include type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and cardiovascular disease.

Experts determine obesity as having a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or more. This means obesity occurs when a person’s weight is higher than what healthcare professionals consider healthy for their height.

BMI is not the only indication of obesity. Healthcare professionals may also use a person’s waist-to-hip ratio to determine obesity and the risk of obesity-related conditions.

Several factors can contribute to a person gaining weight and developing obesity. These factors include:

  • eating habits
  • physical activity habits
  • sleep routine
  • health conditions
  • genetics
  • medications

This article discusses how obesity affects different systems of the body.

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Obesity is associated with a higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease and other issues. This is both a direct relation to obesity as well as to other conditions associated with obesity, such as high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and sleep apnea.

Excess weight from obesity can cause fatty materials to buildup in a person’s arteries. The arteries are the vessels that carry blood to and from the heart. The buildup can cause these vessels to become blocked or damaged, which can lead to a heart attack.

If this buildup also affects the arteries that carry blood to the brain, it can cause a stroke.

Read more about cardiovascular disease.

Fat buildup from obesity can cause a restriction in the airways, which leads to decreased airflow. This can make it more difficult for a person to breathe as usual.

Obesity can increase a person’s risk of developing respiratory conditions, including:

Sleep apnea is common among people with obesity. It causes a person’s breathing to be irregular or stop completely for certain periods during the night. If left untreated, sleep apnea can increase a person’s risk of other conditions, such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

Read more about sleep apnea.

Obesity can affect the digestive system in various ways. This includes increasing the risk of developing other conditions, including:

Between 22 and 70% of people with obesity also experience GERD. This compares to the prevalence of approximately 15% in the general population. Researchers believe the increased risk of GERD in those with obesity may be due to excess abdominal fat increasing intra-abdominal pressure and visceral adipose tissue causing esophageal inflammation.

Learn more about GERD risk factors.

Researchers connect obesity and reproductive issues in various ways. For instance, the metabolic changes that occur due to obesity may affect both female and male reproduction.

Obesity can cause issues with menstrual cycles and ovulation. It can also lead to a higher risk of complications during pregnancy.

While research is inconclusive, some studies state obesity may cause changes in sperm production and testosterone levels.

There is a link between obesity and many endocrine and hormone-related conditions. These include:

One of the main health risks of obesity is the development of type 2 diabetes. Approximately 8 out of 10 adults who have type 2 diabetes also have overweight or obesity. High blood sugar levels can lead to other complications, such as heart disease, stroke, and kidney disease.

Learn more about the relationship between obesity and diabetes.

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Obesity can lead to excess layers of subcutaneous fat and increased sweating. The excess fat layers create more skin folds. This can cause moisture to build up in those areas and lead to rashes and friction.

Obesity can also cause or worsen various skin conditions, including:

Obesity can affect a person’s bones and muscles. Excess weight can cause extra pressure on the joints and increase the risk of osteoarthritis.

Obesity can also lead to limitations of muscle functionality. This can eventually increase the risk of developing mobility and balance issues.

Some studies also link obesity to the development of osteoporosis. These studies show a connection between obesity and an increased risk of experiencing bone issues later in life.

Many people with obesity experience issues with their mental health that relates to:

Approximately 20–60% of people with obesity also experience some type of psychological disorder.

Individuals with severe obesity may be around five times more likely to experience episodes of major depression than those without obesity. Around one-third of those with obesity who had bariatric surgery reported experiencing symptoms of depression before surgery. Approximately half reported a history of depression.

Other mental health issues that people with obesity may experience or may be at higher risk of developing include:

Weight loss can be part of a successful treatment plan for some people with obesity. However, without other treatments for the conditions, such as depression, many people experienced a reoccurrence of symptoms following weight loss.

Learn more about mental health.

Obesity may put a person at an increased risk of developing some cancers, including the following types:

An individual can speak with a doctor about their risks of developing cancer or other health conditions.

Learn more about cancer.

Obesity is an increasing issue among the general population. It can affect most areas of the body.

Obesity can put individuals at higher risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and stroke. It can also affect a person’s breathing and lead to respiratory conditions such as sleep apnea.

There is also a link between obesity and issues with the digestive system, skin, and fertility. It can also increase a person’s risk of developing certain cancers and mental health conditions.

An individual with concerns about obesity or who is interested in weight loss can speak with a healthcare professional for more information and guidance.